The 5th Avenue Theatre has more seats than any theater on Broadway, but Broadway sells a lot more seats, thanks in part to the shows The 5th exports. Its more than 20,000 subscribers may be the nation’s hungriest audience for never-before-seen, Broadway-bound musicals. “We’ve created 18 new musicals in 17 years,” says The 5th’s artistic director and executive producer, David Armstrong. Nine of those went to Broadway—including Shrek and Disney’s Aladdin—racking up 15 Tony Awards, among them two for Best Musical, for Hairspray and Memphis.
Hopes are high on both coasts for the latest potential Tony magnet about to launch at The 5th, the 20th-anniversary musicalization of the 1997 classic girl-power film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. “I can’t predict a hit,” says Armstrong, “but it all depends on the team behind the show.” The Romy team includes (pictured from left) Los Angeles–based composers Gwendolyn Sanford and Brandon Jay (Weeds, Orange Is the New Black); Seattle’s Armstrong; LA-based director Kristin Hanggi (Rock of Ages); New York City–based actors Cortney Wolfson (Legally Blonde, Kinky Boots) as Romy and LA-based Stephanie Renee Wall (Frozen) as Michele; music director Tim Symons of Issaquah’s Village Theatre in his 5th Avenue debut; LA-based writer Robin Schiff (seated), who wrote the play, screenplay and musical; and musical choreographer Peggy Hickey (Anastasia).
The 5th’s hit makers can take inspiration from the ultimate team players: the show’s two best-friend characters. “Michele is a calming energy for Romy’s wildness,” says Wolfson. “She doesn’t care what anybody thinks except Romy. If Romy’s happy, Michele’s happy.” For some 20,000 Seattleites and Lord knows how many New Yorkers, this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Check out behind-the-scenes pics from our wild photo shoot here.
Romy and Michele runs June 8–July 2 at The 5th Avenue Theatre, downtown; 5thavenue.org